I think my iPhone is a great invention, made even greater by the many software applications that you can download for it. But as 95 percent of my cable channels demonstrate, even the greatest inventions can be put to utterly stupid uses.
The problematic marketing seems to have been a news release and YouTube video produced by Mr. Comm, in which he stated that his application “has people pulling each other’s virtual fingers” and also used the exact phrase “pull my finger.”
Some of the best-selling iPhone apps fall into that category. I am proud to say I own many apps, but not either “iFart Mobile” or “Pull My Finger,” both of which, for just 99 cents, allow users to play a variety of simulated flatulence sounds. iFart was produced by InfoMedia, Inc., based in Colorado and owned by a guy named Joel Comm, while Pull My Finger was created by Florida-based Air-O-Matic, Inc. As recounted by a Fort Collins newspaper, the two companies quickly emerged as the titans of flatulence simulation: “[Air-O-Matic] held the early lead in sales of novelty applications that produce flatulence noises, but iFart surpassed Pull My Finger in popularity, in part because of the marketing that sparked the potential court battle.”
You see where this is going.
But let the story be told by Mr. Comm himself, in this dramatic but maybe not entirely serious blog post recounting this clash of titans and the groundbreaking fart litigation it spawned:
My team and I came up with the idea for an iPhone fart application in summer of 2008. We knew it would be a hit…. We took great pride in developing iFart Mobile. It was more than another iPhone application. It was a true entertainment machine…. I’ve got nothing against the people who make Pull My Finger. In my opinion, their app was inferior to ours. My team and I strongly believed that when people were given a choice between the two, iFart would be the clear winner…. As a very small part of my marketing I uploaded a video to YouTube called “iFart Mobile – Pull My Finger” intending to leverage the term commonly used to set off flatulence. I never imagined a common phrase like that would qualify for Federal trademark status, and I don’t believe it does. However, Air-O-Matic, the people that developed Pull My Finger, beg to differ. Since we did our first press release and linked the common phrase “pull my finger” to our app, they have been contacting us and asking us to stop…. [Instead,] Air-O-Matic, Inc. is being served with a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment today. I was willing to negotiate with them, but I will not be harrassed [sic] into paying them money just because our application was more popular and sold more units than theirs. By rejecting my offer to discuss with them, we have incurred a loss of precious time and resources, not to mention legal fees. I intend to receive recompense.
You’d think the guy who came up with “iFart Mobile” would be able to come up with a better closing line than “I intend to receive recompense.”
According to the complaint, as of the date of filing “the Apple iPhone App Store offered no fewer than 75 different flatulence simulation software applications from no fewer than 50 different developers.” And you thought America didn’t make anything the world wants to buy anymore.